Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia
Reconstructing Past Identities from Archaeology, Linguistics, and Ethnohistory
Publication Year: 2011
A transdisciplinary collaboration among ethnologists, linguists, and archaeologists, Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia traces the emergence, expansion, and decline of cultural identities in indigenous Amazonia. Hornborg and Hill argue that the tendency to link language, culture, and biology--essentialist notions of ethnic identities--is a Eurocentric bias that has characterized largely inaccurate explanations of the distribution of ethnic groups and languages in Amazonia. The evidence, however, suggests a much more fluid relationship among geography, language use, ethnic identity, and genetics. In Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia, leading linguists, ethnographers, ethnohistorians, and archaeologists interpret their research from a unique nonessentialist perspective to form a more accurate picture of the ethnolinguistic diversity in this area. Revealing how ethnic identity construction is constantly in flux, contributors show how such processes can be traced through different ethnic markers such as pottery styles and languages. Scholars and students studying lowland South America will be especially interested, as will anthropologists intrigued by its cutting-edge, interdisciplinary approach.
Published by: University Press of Colorado
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List of Figures
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List of Maps
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List of Tables
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This volume builds on three conferences on past processes of ethnic identity formation in Amazonia. The first meeting, Mapping Culture: Geographical Information Systems in the Human Sciences, was held at Lund University, November 27–29, 2006. It addressed questions on how digital cartography can help us reconstruct the expansion and decline of cultural identities over time. Participants included David...
1. Introduction: Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia
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Attempts to explain the distribution of indigenous languages and ethnic groups in Amazonia since the time of European contact, whether by historians, linguists, or archaeologists, have generally been founded on an essentialist conception of ethnolinguistic groups as more or less bounded, genetically distinct populations that have reached their recent territories through migration. This perception of...
Part I: Archaeology
2. Archaeological Cultures and Past Identities in the Pre-colonial Central Amazon
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Archaeologists are well aware that a simple association between patterns in the archaeological record and ethnographic or ethnohistorical patterns is highly problematic. The ethnographic literature on lowland South America is full of examples of multilinguistic regional systems where different language groups share, for instance, the use of the same pottery, occupy villages with similar spatial layout, and even...
3. Deep History, Cultural Identities, and Ethnogenesis in the Southern Amazon
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Ethnogenesis is a widely discussed aspect of cultural change in indigenous Amazonia, generally taken to mean the emergence of a discrete “ethnos” through the mixing of two or more distinctive cultural groups, particularly within the context of European colonialism (Hill 1996). However, little is known in most cases about the actual processes of change, particularly over the long term, including different perspectives...
4. Deep Time, Big Space: An Archaeologist Skirts the Topic at Hand
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Polarities are falsehoods that focus debate. At the risk of losing focus, this chapter scouts a middle ground between so-called primordialist and instrumentalist views of ethnic groups. The primordialist argues for deep-seated continuity of the kind implied by the continental terms Bauplan and Volksgeist, the longue durée, and those enduring dispositions of habitus and hexis—an argot referring to what...
5. Generic Pots and Generic Indians: The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis in the Middle Orinoco
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Epidemic disease, slave raiding, and the displacement and relocation of indigenous groups under the colonial mission regime resulted in dramatic transformations in the ethnic conformation of the middle Orinoco area, as in other parts of America. Nonetheless, after the expulsion of the missionaries following the war of independence, native societies had the opportunity to redefine themselves vis-à-vis the fledgling Republics...
6. An Attempt to Understand Panoan Ethnogenesis in Relation to Long-Term Patterns and Transformations of Regional Interaction in Western Amazonia
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This chapter will explore the regional context and reproduction of the Panoan ethnolinguistic family in western Amazonia. The argument is a specific case within a more general project1 aiming to build a database for correlating the geography, linguistics, material culture (e.g., ceramic styles, rock-art styles, horticultural systems, etc.), trade routes, and political projects of indigenous Amazonia over time (Eriksen...
Part II: Linguistics
7. Amazonian Ritual Communication in Relation to Multilingual Social Networks
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In this chapter I describe several approaches to how we might enhance our understanding of Amazonian ritual communication, offering suggestions for incorporating aspects of language use in the region into the new orientation to regional ethnogenesis (Hornborg 2005). As we have learned from studies of Amazonian welcoming rituals and other ceremonial dialogues, ritual practice probes the sources...
8. The Spread of the Arawakan Languages
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Over the last three decades the Arawakan language family has drawn increasing attention in a number of disciplines (cf. Hill and Santos-Granero 2002). The family is unique in South America in several respects. It has the widest geographical extension of a language family in the continent. Furthermore, the literature reports for many individual members of the language family considerable influence from other...
9. Comparative Arawak Linguistics: Notes on Reconstruction, Diffusion, and Amazonian Prehistory
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In this chapter we address two issues related to the historical-comparative studies of Arawak. First, we will review the Apurinã-Piro-Iñapari linguistic subgrouping hypothesis that we have previously presented (Brandão and Facundes 2007). Second, we will make an exploratory analysis of twelve lexical similarities between Arawak and Arawá languages. And third, we will present suggestions on possible...
10. Linguistic Diversity Zones and Cartographic Modeling: GIS as a Method for Understanding the Prehistory of Lowland South America
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The vast geographic scale, time depth, linguistic variability, and inherent complexity of long-term cultural trajectories influencing social ethnogenesis in lowland South America have presented scholars with many challenges in the past century (see Hornborg and Hill, this volume). However, it is this multifaceted character of the problem that lends itself to meaningful interpretations of ethnic identity and...
11. Nested Identities in the Southern Guyana-Surinam Corner
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This chapter explores the history of contact between several borderland language communities who live in the triangle that forms the southern border between Guyana and Surinam. In particular, focus is on the histories of four groups in this triangle that have been intricately intertwined through trade and intermarriage for more than two centuries, namely the Waiwai, Mawayana, Taruma, and Wapishana.
12. Change, Contact, and Ethnogenesis in Northern Quechua: Structural Phylogenetic Approaches to Clause-Embedding Predicates
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This chapter is part of a research program focused on the long-term history and development of the South American languages. It tries to study grammatical properties of these languages as potential indices of genetic relationships. Under current analyses, based on years of research and using the well-established methods of historical linguistics, over 100 language families are postulated, many of them quite...
Part III: Ethnohistory
13. Sacred Landscapes as Environmental Histories in Lowland South America
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In this chapter I will focus on ritual practices as active components in the ways that indigenous peoples of lowland South America have historically constructed power relations and the material, ecological landscapes that these different ritual practices have produced. The term “landscape” is used here to refer to a “historical construct, the visible imprint of past human agency” (Neves and Petersen 2006:279), or reflections...
14. Constancy in Continuity? Native Oral History, Iconography, and Earthworks on the Upper Purús River
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When I was working with the Manchineri in Acre state, Brazil, I asked young people to produce drawings as a way of gaining more insight into their lived worlds. Once a young man drew the ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis) vision he had seen during a shamanic ceremony. When I later compared this shamanic Manchineri design with a satellite photo of an earthwork of the same region, I was surprised by how similarly the drawing...
15. Ethnogenesis at the Interface of the Andes and the Amazon: Re-examining Ethnicity in the Piedmont Region of Apolobamba, Bolivia
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On June 1, 2007, a group of Andean colonists and peasants (campesinos) blockaded the road between the highland city of La Paz and the small provincial capital of Apolo, located in the piedmont region of Apolobamba, Bolivia. Throughout the summer of 2007, the normally bucolic town was engulfed in chaos as protesters razed the local headquarters of Madidi National Park and the military police...
16. Ethnogenesis and Interculturality in the “Forest of Canelos”: The Wild and the Tame Revisited
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In this chapter I focus on indigenous ethnogenesis and interculturality of the Canelos Quichua and Jivaroan people of the “forest of Canelos” as the former perceive themselves as emerging in a regional cultural system. I also focus on historical ethnogenesis wherein the portrayal of Quichua-speaking and Jivaroan-speaking people in Dominican archives established a strategic polarity seized upon by some...
17. Captive Identities, or the Genesis of Subordinate Quasi-Ethnic Collectivities in the American Tropics
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Situations in which different social groups come into close contact and become engaged in a power struggle constitute an especially propitious terrain for the unfolding of processes of ethnogenesis. This is particularly true of colonial situations, where ethnogenesis has been characterized “as a creative adaptation to a general history of violent changes” (Hill 1996:1). In the Americas, the economic, demographic,...
18. Afterword: Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia
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This volume makes a major contribution to rethinking the history of South America by directly confronting some of the major theoretical constraints that have interfered with a better appreciation of the nature of ancient Amazonia. Several authors in the volume use the lens of Arawakan peoples to begin to provide a coherent ethnological framework for thinking through the interrelationships of language,...
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Page Count: 408
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos, 19 line drawings, 23 maps, 20 tables
Publication Year: 2011